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Officials in New York City, which was once the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus, are making plans to lift restrictions as the number of new cases there levels off. Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined a possible phased approach, which he expects to begin in the first half of June, with “anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000” people returning to work in the first phase.

Four months after the first novel coronavirus infection was confirmed in the United States, the virus has claimed more than 100,000 lives here. It has killed people in every state. It has found victims in dense cities and rural towns. Some of the victims were well-known; many were unsung.

Here are some significant developments:

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May 28, 2020 at 11:14 PM EDT

In Puerto Rico, an economic disaster looms amid fears of coronavirus

Eroilda Pérez Cabán used to walk every day from her home in Guánica, Puerto Rico, to the grocery store.

The store shut down in January as earthquakes continued to rattle southern Puerto Rico. Weeks later, the novel coronavirus triggered some of the strictest shutdown measures in the United States, preventing Pérez Cabán from going out or getting a ride to a store seven miles away. Now Pérez Cabán, living alone in a nearly abandoned town without transportation and terrified of a microscopic pathogen, is going hungry.

“This is a plague,” Pérez Cabán said, “in more ways than one.”

The bandaged safety net that has buoyed Puerto Ricans imperfectly in times of crisis has slackened for many during the pandemic. It has given way to new levels of scarcity on an island archipelago pummeled in recent years by hurricanes, earthquakes, political upheaval and bankruptcy.

Read more here.

By Arelis Hernández
May 28, 2020 at 10:39 PM EDT

Isolated and at risk: 12 nursing home and assisted living residents talk about life during the pandemic

A 91-year-old man in a North Carolina nursing home calls his wife four times a day just to hear her voice. At a New Jersey facility where 285 staff and residents have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, a Navy veteran says the pandemic is worse than war. A grandmother living alone in Brooklyn feels her heartbeat quicken when she hears ambulance sirens close in on her block. And in Dallas, a 71-year-old has started to dread the daily calls from friends and family telling her another person from her hometown in rural Louisiana has died.

Across the country, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities are being pummeled by the coronavirus. A Washington Post analysis found that more than 1 in 4 nursing homes, which are regulated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, have had at least one reported case of the coronavirus among residents or staff. Together with assisted-living facilities, which are not regulated by the federal government, nursing homes account for 174,381 cases and 42 percent of deaths nationwide, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The grief, loneliness and fear that have characterized the last 11 weeks for many Americans are intensified inside these facilities, where stay-at-home orders and other social distancing measures mean no socializing and no visitors. Precious routines like bingo and shared meals have been disrupted and, in some cases, residents have been forced to relocate. Every day the crisis persists, those in long-term care facilities are forced to confront the risks of living in close quarters with other vulnerable residents — and the possibility of dying alone.

Read more here.

Do you work at a nursing home, or have a loved one at a long-term care facility? Click here to share your experience with The Post.

By Rachel Chason and Rebecca Tan
May 28, 2020 at 10:08 PM EDT

Inspired by Duke Ellington, a project brings quarantined musicians and filmmakers together

Paul Glenshaw knew his next filmmaking project would involve Duke Ellington. Yet the Seven Tones Project ended up surprising even him.

He and his California-based production partner Darroch Greer had finished a major documentary, “The Lafayette Escadrille,” about Americans serving in the French Army during World War I. (It premiered at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in January.) “It’s a very sad subject to work on,” said Glenshaw, who lives in Silver Spring. “The next one, we knew, had to be something beautiful, really engaging and fun. And we just kept coming back around in our conversations to Ellington, who we both love.”

They wanted to do something different from the usual biographical piece, but they were still brainstorming what that would be when the coronavirus closures began. Stuck at home, Glenshaw nonetheless found his creative impulses were still surging. The same was true, he knew, for plenty of others — and not just in the film community.

Read more here.

By Michael J. West
May 28, 2020 at 10:02 PM EDT

Minneapolis unrest expected to lead to more coronavirus cases

Demonstrations in Minneapolis and St. Paul, sparked over the death of George Floyd, could lead to a rise in coronavirus cases, a health official said.

This week, peaceful and violent protests have occurred in the Twin Cities after Floyd, an unarmed black man, died after a white police officer knelt on his neck. While images of masked protesters have emerged, Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm projected the large gatherings will create a surge of positive coronavirus test results.

“It’s certainly going to be a factor in what happens in our outbreak and our case counts,” Malcolm said, according to MPR News.

On Thursday, the health department reported 493 new cases, with nearly 30 percent of those positive tests coming from the county of the Twin Cities. The state also reported 35 additional deaths for a total of 967, the vast majority belonging to residents in long-term care or assisted-living facilities.

Though Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (D) has declared a state of emergency, more protests are expected.

“I’m understanding the forecast is for very large protests this weekend, with a lot of people coming in from across the state and around the country and gathering in large groups,” Malcolm said. “That’s almost sure to have an impact on furthering spread.”

By Candace Buckner
May 28, 2020 at 9:31 PM EDT

Illinois governor announces guidance for places of worship to reopen

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced guidance for places of worship to reopen, which came hours before a deadline in which his administration had to respond the U.S. Supreme Court on a legal challenge.

On Thursday, Pritzker’s office released a nine-page document outlining ways in which a religious center can choose to hold or expand in-person services. Even so, he recommended the option of virtual services.

“This guidance does not obligate or encourage places of worship to resume in-person activity,” the statement read. “Indeed, it is strongly recommended that places of worship continue to facilitate remote services, particularly for those who are vulnerable to COVID-19 including older adults and those with co-morbidities.”

The detailed suggestions include outdoor and drive-in services, limiting attendance to 25 percent of capacity or a maximum of 100 people in groups of less than 10, as well as for congregants to wear face coverings and practice social distancing.

The announcement heads off a Thursday night deadline. The Supreme Court had given Pritzker until May 28 to respond to an appeal from local churches that filed an emergency application against the state’s stay-at-home orders. In the phased reopening of Illinois, Pritzker had allowed gatherings of no more than 10 people. The churches challenged the order but had lost in two lower courts.

By Candace Buckner
May 28, 2020 at 9:08 PM EDT

New York City eyes June reopening

New York City’s reopening is beginning to take shape after Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined the early plans of a phased approach Thursday.

The first phase will include manufacturing, construction, nonessential retail and wholesale supplies and is expected to begin in the first half of June. Nonessential retail purchases will be limited to curbside or in-store pickup.

“Restarting won’t mean back to normal,” de Blasio (D) tweeted. “We CAN’T rush back. We need to keep this virus in check.”

De Blasio expects between 200,000 and 400,000 people returning to work in Phase 1 and emphasized the need for safety. Those measures include keeping people six feet apart, occupancy at 50 percent or less, face coverings, increased cleaning of surfaces and health screenings for employees.

Random inspections of businesses will ensure they know the rules and comply, he said. There will not be fines for first offenses, but repeated non-compliance will lead to “aggressive action,” according to de Blasio. He also tweeted there is a plan to reopen schools in the fall as normal with a contingency plan in place, if needed.

“City agencies will provide free support to businesses through industry guides, a business restart hotline and advisory groups to help us understand what’s working and what’s not,” de Blasio tweeted. “We’re looking ahead to the next phases. ... People are preparing for more scenarios than you can count. It is crucial to the economic restart to get the school equation right.”

By Kareem Copeland
May 28, 2020 at 8:46 PM EDT

Turkey’s president says restaurants, beaches and museums will open next week as infection rate falls

ISTANBUL — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that restaurants, cafes, museums and other facilities across Turkey will reopen on June 1, as his government lifted a raft of coronavirus-related restrictions in an effort to restart the country’s ailing economy.

In a televised address, Erdogan said that travel between Turkish cities would be restored and that beaches, national parks and gardens would also reopen on June 1.

Turkey has struggled with one of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the world. More than 160,000 people have tested positive for the virus, and 4,461 people have died, according to government figures released Thursday. In the early weeks of the pandemic, critics accused the government of hesitating to impose strict lockdowns in large cities to avoid further damage to the economy.

Infection rates and the death toll have fallen since early May, partly as a result of what health officials said was an aggressive government contact-tracing effort that helped track the virus and bring the outbreak under control.

Shopping malls, barbershops and beauty salons were allowed to open earlier this month with strict hygiene requirements. Turkey’s religious affairs authority said Thursday that congregational prayers would resume in mosques, beginning on Friday with attendance increased gradually over the coming weeks.

Some restrictions would remain, including regulations requiring people over age 65 and young people under 18 to largely remain at home, Erdogan said. Restrictions on intercity travel could be reimposed, he added, warning citizens to “not neglect masks, distancing and cleanliness.”

By Zeynep Karatas and Kareem Fahim
May 28, 2020 at 8:36 PM EDT

Study: Prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine have skyrocketed

Prescriptions for the drug hydroxychloroquine have skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic despite no clear evidence that it is an effective measure to treat covid-19, the disease the virus causes, according to a new study.

The study, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed there were 483,425 “excess fills” of hydroxychloroquine and the closely related drug chloroquine during a 10-week period starting in mid-March, compared with the same time period in 2019. The study included data from all 50 states.

President Trump has promoted the antimalarial drug as a “game-changer” and said last week that he was taking it every day despite warnings from the Food and Drug Administration that use should be limited to those in hospital settings or in clinical trials. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, recently said the FDA “has been very clear on their website about their concerns about hydroxychloroquine.”

Trump said Sunday he has completed a “two-week course” of the drug.

“I believe in it enough that I took a program because I had two people in the White House that tested positive,” Trump told Sharyl Attkisson of the Sinclair Broadcast Group. “And by the way, I’m still here,” Trump added. “To the best of my knowledge, here I am.”

Another study reported that 96,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients treated with the drug on six continents had a significantly higher risk of death than those who did not take hydroxychloroquine.

The World Health Organization announced Monday that it had temporarily halted a global trial of the drug because of the aforementioned study.

“The Executive Group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity Trial while the safety data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general, said in a briefing.

By Kareem Copeland
May 28, 2020 at 8:23 PM EDT

House passes bill to ease access to small-business loans in pandemic, but impasse with Senate remains

The House overwhelmingly passed a bill Thursday that would make it easier for small businesses to utilize funds under the new Paycheck Protection Program, Congress’s latest response to the coronavirus pandemic’s roiling economic fallout. But the measure’s future remains uncertain because Senate leaders have not yet signaled support.

The House legislation, strongly supported by business groups that lobbied hard for changes to the existing program, would give businesses more time to have the loans forgiven and paid off by the U.S. government.

The vote came as the Labor Department reported that an additional 2.1 million Americans filed jobless claims last week, bringing the 10-week total to more than 40 million applications.

Read more here.

By Erica Werner
May 28, 2020 at 7:54 PM EDT

UPS to add ‘peak surcharges’ on domestic deliveries from major shippers

United Parcel Service will soon add additional fees on shipments of certain domestic packages. Beginning May 31, the delivery carrier announced it will levy “peak surcharges” on major companies that have overwhelmed its ground network with residential and oversized deliveries during the pandemic. UPS has previously implemented peak surcharges on specific international shipments.

“Our goal is to ensure businesses and customers are able to meet their shipping needs while demand has increased for shipping services,” read a statement on the UPS website.

The carrier usually levies a surcharge during the holiday season, not the summer months. But due to nationwide stay-at-home orders that began in March, an influx of orders were placed on sites like Amazon, Target and Walmart . Online purchases swelled, and the demand overwhelmed the delivery network.

“I’m working more than I ever have in almost 24 years at UPS,” Jack Warren, a UPS delivery driver, told CNN.

The surcharge will apply to UPS clients whose volume of ground residential packages of the previous week exceed the “customer’s average weekly volume for February by more than 25,000 packages,” according to the UPS update.

By Candace Buckner
May 28, 2020 at 7:26 PM EDT

Pro sports in Texas can host limited fans at outdoor venues

Texas has decided to allow outdoor professional sports to return with limited fans, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced Thursday.

Abbott originally ordered professional leagues could return without fans in June as part of the phased reopening. The revised plan allows for teams to host fans at 25 percent capacity at outdoor venues and leagues will have to apply with the Texas Department of State Health Services to host them. The ban remains for indoor events.

Texas has eight combined teams among the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball. Both the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans play in stadiums with retractable roofs.

The NBA is currently working with Walt Disney Co. on details to restart the season at a single site near Orlando. The NHL has announced a return-to-play plan that includes 24 teams playing in two “hub” cities with training camps expected to begin in July. Dallas is one of 10 cities in the United States and Canada in the running to host. The NFL has not yet changed its scheduled start in September.

The Charles Schwab Challenge PGA Tour event has been rescheduled for June 11-14 in Fort Worth, and the tournament has announced it will be played without fans.

College and high school athletics were not addressed.

“My prediction is yes we’re going to have college football beginning as scheduled, on schedule,” Abbott told KXAN-TV last week, “with at least some level of fans in the stands.”

By Kareem Copeland
May 28, 2020 at 6:52 PM EDT

Ohio will soon allow outdoor visitation at care facilities but not nursing homes

Ohio will lift visitor bans at assisted-living facilities and intermediate-care facilities beginning June 8. Under the new plan, care centers can allow outdoor visitation. However, restrictions will remain in place for nursing homes.

“We will continue to examine, monitor, and adjust as we carefully and thoughtfully lift restrictions on visitation,” Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said in a statement. “The well-being of our residents has been, and remains, central to our decision-making.”

The facilities that will soon allow outdoor visits must follow five guidelines, which include temperature screening. Also, all guests must report any symptoms and, during the visit, practice social distancing and wear facing coverings. For those residents near the end of life, “consideration for visitors” will be expanded. However, the state advised facilities not to wait until a resident is dying to allow visitors.

With the announcement, Ohio becomes one of the first states to move forward with plans to end visitor restrictions as part of phased reopening. This week, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) revealed he has discussed the possibility of allowing visitation at long-term care facilities with a medical advisory board.

“It’s a complicated issue,” Baker said, according to WBUR. “Lot of psychological benefit in it, but big concerns about some of the issues associated with the virus.”

By Candace Buckner
May 28, 2020 at 6:27 PM EDT

Nearly 900 Tyson Foods employees in two states test positive for covid-19

Tyson Foods continues to experience more outbreaks of the novel coronavirus within its meatpacking plants. In Iowa and Texas, officials confirmed escalating numbers of positive results in which at least 20 percent of the workforce at both plants has been infected by the virus.

During a Thursday briefing, Iowa Department of Public Health Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter reported 555 of the 2,517 employees at the Tyson pork processing plant in the northwest part of the state have confirmed cases of the virus. In Texas, meanwhile, Tyson Foods announced that 326 of its staff of 1,604 employees have tested positive, according to several reports. The confirmed cases represent a nationwide problem for the meat industry.

This week, Tyson Foods had already surpassed 7,000 confirmed cases, according to a Washington Post analysis. As reports of massive numbers across the nation — almost 900 Tyson Foods employees tested positive for the virus in Indiana — the company defended itself in full-page advertisements placed in The Washington Post, the New York Times and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

“We have a responsibility to feed our country. It is as essential as health care,” John H. Tyson, chairman of the company’s executive board, wrote in the ad placed in late April. “This is a challenge that should not be ignored. Our plants must remain operational so that we can supply food to our families in America. This is a delicate balance because Tyson Foods places team member safety as our top priority.”

By Candace Buckner
May 28, 2020 at 6:05 PM EDT

Democrat accuses OSHA of being ‘invisible’ while essential worker infections rise

Democratic lawmakers lambasted the nation’s workplace safety regulator Thursday in a House hearing, accusing the agency of failing to hold employers accountable while tens of thousands of essential workers fell ill during the pandemic.

Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.), chairwoman of the House Education and Labor subcommittee on workforce protections, said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been “invisible” during what she called the worst worker-safety crisis of the agency’s 50-year history.

Despite well-documented outbreaks among health-care, meat-processing, nursing home and retail workers, OSHA has issued only voluntary guidance on coronavirus mitigation, resisting calls from lawmakers and labor advocates to mandate social distancing and other protocols recommended by public heath professionals.

OSHA is facing a lawsuit from the AFL-CIO, which is seeking to compel the agency to issue an enforceable emergency temporary standard, as it did during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009.

But Republican lawmakers and top-ranking OSHA officials contend the agency’s approach gives it more flexibility in the fast-changing pandemic environment and that an emergency temporary standard would not better protect workers. The agency has issued industry-specific guidelines, including for the retail and meatpacking sectors, that are more effective than a single standard, they said.

Read more here.

By Taylor Telford